For Nicole Beardsley, it was love at first sight.
It happened just as Beardsley was wrapping up ninth grade at upstate New York power Burnt Hills.
“Ever since I saw my first college games freshman year (2011) at the final four at Stony Brook and especially saw the Northwestern game, I knew that I wanted to be a Wildcat and play for the team I saw on that field,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley, a speedy and small attack player who just finished her junior season for Section 2 champion Burnt Hills, will make that dream a reality. She has verbally committed to Northwestern after considering several major Division I programs.
Beardsley’s path to the elite level of D-I lax is an interesting one, which started with her playing ice hockey.
What were the main factors in your decision?
Northwestern was my No. 1 school from the start. Once they showed their interest in me, there wasn’t much to think about. When I visited Evanston for the first time a year ago, I fell in love with the campus, the (scenic) views and the lacrosse program.
The girls from the team are great. Seeing them do demo drills at camp, getting so excited for every good play made, you want to play even more. One of the highlights was when we watched the basketball game vs. Butler from the student section in a packed Welsh-Ryan Arena couldn’t have been a better time to get to know the girls and the other commits.
The school sells itself from the view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago Skyline on the lacrosse field where I plan to spend most of my time (besides the library, of course), to the view from the top floor of the Ryan Field press box, to the soon-to-come indoor facilities, the dorms – and the food was pretty good. I could go on for hours about everything I love about NU. It’s a never-ending list; definitely my perfect match school. I can’t wait for my time to come in Evanston.
What other schools were you considering and what schools did you visit?
My top few in addition to Northwestern were Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Boston University. Besides Northwestern, I spent the most time at BU. It was a beautiful place and I loved meeting the girls on the team and got a great feel from the coaches.
I also had gone down to the Duke camp and visited the UNC campus while in NC. And living in upstate New York and having a brother who went to Cortland, I’d been through ‘Cuse a few times and my HS coach is from Tully and grew up with (Syracuse Assistant) Coach (Regy) Thorpe and came to do a clinic at our school.
But in the end, nothing took my eyes off my dream even for a minute.
What are your strengths as a player and how would you describe your style of play?
I’m a lefty. That’s one of the things that brought a big smile to (Northwestern head coach) Kelly’s (Amonte Hiller) face when we first talked. Although I’ve made sure that the right is just as good and some days, to be honest, it’s better than my left.
I’m pretty fast, something I give credit to my older brother. He’s 7 years older and I was always the little sister tagging along, so I had to learn to be fast if I wanted to keep up especially with my little legs. That and my size were the two things that gave me my nickname (“Rat”) back in seventh grade.
I’m only 5-foot-2, and as you can imagine, was a bit smaller as a seventh-grader. I was on varsity, playing against the big seniors.
One of the girls on the team thought I looked like a mouse running around all the giants and ever since I’ve been called “Rat.” I get quite the looks from strangers when they hear someone call me that.
Along with that, I grew up playing ice hockey with the boys because of my brother. It’s a fast and pretty tough game, so I think a lot of my style comes from that. I had to be tough and have thick skin. Not to mention I was the goalie. I learned to see the whole ice and see everything going on and that definitely helped me learn the game of lacrosse and learn to see the whole field.
What are your thoughts on the success Burnt Hills enjoyed this past season and what were the keys?
I couldn’t have asked to have such a wonderful season with a team made up of any other girls. This team this year was absolutely amazing. Everyone came to play every day, always willing to dig a little deeper and work a little harder.
We learned the hard way last year that just because you win one year, doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next.
The biggest key to our season was playing as one unit. When we played as a team, we could take on the world. Since I committed in January, there was a part of me that worried a little bit if I’d be looked at any differently by my teammates now that I had the Northwestern label.
That wasn’t an issue at all. They were nothing but supportive and proud of me.
This 2013 season team is definitely my favorite to ever been a part of. We were riding home from our season-ending (19-14) loss to John Jay (in the regional semifinals of the state tournament) and we were begging coach to let us have practice the next day.
Instead of practice, we took over the school’s wrestling room and played dodgeball – something we had done the Wednesday that our sectional final game had gotten cancelled due to weather just two days before we were about to play a huge game.
It was team bonding. The key to our season was playing as one.
But the day after the season ended was a little different. I’d never be with this group of girls again. I loved that team and wasn’t ready to let it go. I had to leave the wrestling room and try to pull it together. Each one of us loved everything about that team. We were the definition of a family of sisters with two coaches who became our second and third fathers. Together. That was our key.
How did you get introduced to lacrosse and what other sports have you played?
I first started playing lacrosse in sixth grade. Our school has a youth program that is growing every year. It was coached by parents and was a good place to get started. My friends played and they convinced me to play. Little did we know what would become of it.
The following year, when I could play for the high school team, was when things took off. The varsity coach gave me the opportunity to play for him as a seventh-grader.
I started skating when I was 3 years old ready to follow in my brother’s footsteps.This past winter was the first year I didn’t play because it got to the point where my schedule was too filled and I had to let something go.
I also played volleyball since about third grade. I played club from Thanksgiving to Memorial Day and school in the fall. I had been on JV from seventh through 10th grade.
And this past fall I decided to play field hockey for a change of pace in the fall. I made varsity, never played before and kind of figure things out.
What travel team did you play on last summer and what showcase events did you participate in?
I’ve actually never played club lacrosse, as strange as that might sound. I played club ice hockey which between the cost of being a goalie, registration, tournament fees, ice rental, and, of course, travel, it added up fast.
In order then to get seen, I played in the National Schoolgirls Tournament for the Adirondack chapter, and played in the Under Armour All-America showcase at Towson for the Upstate team. I also played on house teams for the Under Armour Capitol Cup and Champions Cup.
I went to camps including Northwestern, Duke, and Under Armour’s Maximum Exposure camp at Maryland. I didn’t let not playing club stop me.
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